Archive | Flowers and Plants

Annual, perennial and interesting flowers with advice on culture, information, tips and recommended varieties

My Climbing Hydrangea

I like the idea of a climbing hydrangea more than the actual experience. Good specimens seem to produce a profusion of frothy, white blossoms particularly when grown by someone else.

My Problem Climbing Hydrangea

  • In my case I planted the sole attempt near a supporting wall. The soil my not be of the best quality, fertility nor humous rich. So what can I expect from Hydrangea petiolaris an Asian woodland native.
  • To compound my sins the wall faces north but in mitigation it is only 2 feet high and the climber now occupies both sides. However flowers are there none or sparse to say the least.
  • Nostrums, potions and plenty of compost have not stimulated leaf or branch growth so what hope of flowers.
  • I expected this Hydrangea to take a while to settle in and start producing but 5 years on and my patience is wearing thin. I guess that is true of the plant which is still keen on revenge for my earlier mistakes over its location.
  • I would prune it after flowering in mid summer but without flowers to set me off I have been a bit too lax. Then again the plant is a bit lax too.
  • In researching this post I discover Hydrangea anomala is a species of vine hydrangea and may be my plant is as confused as I am.
  • I trim the vine to control its height and width or make cuts at leaf nodes to encourage the plant to fill out. However I may be chopping of my buds to spite my face.


Where too Now

  • Cut my losses and turf the climbing hydrangea out.
  • Take cuttings and try new locations more in keeping with its needs. A poor strain of plant will not get better after vegetative propagation.
  • Stick with it and be happy there is one plant to have a moan about.
  • Either move to the south of the UK or buy this book about getting Hydrangeas to bloom in the north.

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Get Christmas Cactus Ready to Flower

Christmas Cactus are succulent  cultivars of Schlumbergera.

Tips For Growing Christmas Cactus

  • As the name suggests in the Northern hemisphere and the UK these plants normally flower between November and February
  • Flower buds are stimulated by shortened day length and need 12 hours  uninterrupted darkness from late summer through autumn.
  • To encourage Christmas flowering, from September, they need 8-10 hours of daily sunshine (don’t we all). A bright windowsill will suffice but cover in darkness the rest of the day.
  • Postion plants to avoid domestic lighting or cover every night with blackout material.
  • Keep temperature below 18c but above 10c
  • Fluctuating temperatures can cause the buds to fall but so can over watering

Christmas Cactus Varieties

  • Schlumbergera x buckleyi  have fleshy stems not leaves.
  • Stems are divided into flattened leaf-like segments with scalloped margins  and they can grow quite long and droop over the edge of a pot.
  • Schlumbergera x bridgesii another Christmas Cactus  do not have spines like many cactus
  • Easter cactus, also known as a spring cactus are not members of the Schlumbergera family. They look similar, bloom in spring but are Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri or Hatiora gaetneri plants.

Geraniums Over Winter

My mother very successfully grew Geraniums (pelargoniums) as indoor pot plants for many years. For the majority of gardeners the zonal geraniums are an outdoor feature of brightly coloured flowers that are often treated as annuals. Over wintering can be too much fuss and frustrating if you get it wrong. There are things you can do to optimise your success in getting a favourite plant through even a cold, soggy winter. Firstly select varieties that are worth the effort of preserving.

Pot Up Pre-winter

  • Unless already in pots replant your favourite geraniums in individual pots with a gritty compost.
  • Tidy up any nibbled leaves and poor stems cutting back a bit if necessary.
  • Keep the pots in a bright, cool spot such as a windowsill. Avoid a frosty reception from a cold window behind curtains.
  • A good plant will keep flowering for a while into winter.
  • Do not over water but keep on the dry side.

Mass Protection

  • If you wish to save a lot of plants you can try keeping them in a frost free area such as a garage or greenhouse.
  • Dig up before they are frosted and knock off as much soil as you can from the roots. Trim back by a half.
  • Either hang the plants in a cool, dark room or place them in paper bags. They will loose their leaves but the stems should reshoot in spring if planted in good compost.
  • Check every few weeks to make sure the plants are not shriveling or drying out completely. Mist or soak if they do get over dry.

Take Cuttings

  • If you have particular geraniums you wish to preserve I recommend taking cuttings.This method takes up less space but you need to start well before the first frosts.
  • Start by taking 3- to 4-inch cuttings from the green  part of the plant. Strip off any leaves on the bottom half of the cutting. Some gardeners recommend dipping the cutting into rooting hormone but I find it more important to ensure excellent drainage.
  • I would definitely use the cuttings method for Regals, Scented and special geranium plants.


Alpine Show at RHS Harlow Carr

Yesterday I visited the 2018 alpine event at Harlow Carr. I was very impressed and I am sure the other people who braved the elements were well satisfied. One benefit of alpine gardening is that the cold greenhouse can protect the gardener as well as the alpine plants.

Big Pluses

  • The volunteers at the snack bar were doing a great job dishing out tea and coffee and there was a help yourself table of homemade cakes and scones. I had a piece of ‘Granny’s apple cake’ thinking she would be called Granny Smith.
  • The next plus was the range and excellent quality of the plants entered in the various show classes. Unfortunately I forgot my camera and note book but remember some of the advice I picked up talking to AGS members.
  • The attention to detail was noticable and must be a trait of those who show alpines. One room was dedicated to alpines native to other continents and they were well labeled. There was also a note of when a seed had been sown showing the age particularly of various cyclamen.
  • There were several specialist nurseries selling a good range of alpines. I could have spent lots of cash but would have had problems carrying so many plants. I opted to just buy 3 Dwarf Rhododendrons.
  • I then went next door to the RHS library and borrowed 3 books including the now out of print Dwarf Rhododendrons by Peter A Cox.

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Happy Christmas Cyclamen

Cool, dampish conditions ensure happy cyclamen plants from now until Christmas. Do not let them dry out in your centrally heated house. Nor should you put them in draft


Indoor Cyclamen persicum can provide a splash of colour when all else is white and drab. I bought two for a pound after Christmas and chose this one because the flowers had not started opening. The tightly twisted buds are now revealing a mottled petal with an interesting cerise colouring.

The other plant I have drowned with too much TLC but its flowers were already a bit blown. This Cyclamen is on gravel in the pot and I am taking greater care. When it finishes flowering I hope to grow the corm on then allow it to dry out in summer. It will be saved in the pot laid sideways and brought back into growth next winter.

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Trees for Burning

I am indebted to Lars Mytting for the inspiration to write a post about ‘trees for burning’ that would fit with our gardeners tips. Trees are a good source of green energy that can often  be used for various constructions including boats and furniture instead of reaching a fiery end.

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Odd Facts about Wood and Trees for Burning.

  • All timber has pound for pound the same calorific value. Some burn hot and fast whilst other yield their heat treasure more slowly. The heating values per cubic meter vary with the weight.
  • Virtually all trees will burn once they have dried. They will dry quicker if they are split as the bark retains moisture.
  • Wounded Pine trees produce a lot of resin which produces ‘fatwood’ that burns strongly.
  • Rowan and Birch make great glowing embers with which to rekindle a fire.
  • Stacked would is measured in cords (not music to my ears).

Different Trees

  • Ash contains less moisture than many common trees and the wood is prized for burning, furniture making and its ability to be coppiced.
  • Beech grows slowly but can be long lived reaching 5 feet in diameter.It has a fine texture and can be steamed and used in furniture making.
  • Birch grows tall, knot free and straight a virtue in wood that needs drying, chopping or using for furniture making. It rots quickly if left on the ground.
  • Spruce and other conifers are prone to spitting and crackling when burnt but provides quick heat.
  • Oak is revered for its strength and has long been used as a building material. It will burn with great satisfaction but who would want to destroy such a useful wood.
  • More individual pieces of Aspen are burnt than any other wood because Aspen is used to make matches.

What About Gardens and Trees for Burning

  • It would take a large garden to grow enough wood for burning to heat a house but dry branches and twigs can be a start.
  • Clean air acts and pollution have curtailed garden fires but dry wood burns in a chimneyed dustbin without too much smoke.
  • Charcoal for a barbecue is best bought specially for the purpose.
  • Firethorn, burning bushes and bonfire night plots are not trees for our type of burning.

Old Sawn Derby Lime

Trees Burning with a Scent

  • All smoke smells to a greater or lesser extent but one all time favourite is wood from an Apple tree. The fruity aroma pervades the room.
  • Cedar has a strong scent that appeals to many. My house is named Cedar Ville for it’s cladding rather than burning (I hope).
  • Pine cones are a quick scented burner and the season wood will burn well if you can stand a pit of spitting.
  • If wood is hard to obtain you can get a herbal aroma from burning Rosemary or other fragrant herbs.

In the words of Lars –  ‘In Learning About Wood, We Can Learn About Life

Part guide to the best practice in every aspect of working with this renewable energy source, part meditation on the human instinct for survival, this definitive handbook on the art of chopping, stacking and drying wood in the Scandinavian way has resonated across the world, with more than half a million copies sold worldwide.’


Umbels for Gardens & Ornamentation

Umbels are far from humble when grown well. When grown badly like Hemlock they are poisonous, even fatal but many species such as carrots, parsnips and fennel are edible or even medicinal.

Umbels flower in a parasol shape with short stalks of equal length rising from a common point opening to a flat or rounded spray.

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Unusual Facts About Umbels

  • A small umbel is called an umbellule
  • Fatsia japonica has a globular umbel reminiscent of a golf ball.
  • Sea Holly (Eryngeum) produces fruirlets rather than seed but is still a member of the umbel group of plants
  • Umbellifers are mostly aromatic flowering plants of the genus Apium such as the celery, carrot or parsley family.
  • Queen Anne’s lace is a development from the common carrot
  • The first ‘Herbal’ describing umbels was credited in a ‘History of Plants’ believed to be written circa 300 BC.
  • Coriander leaves produce ‘ cilantro’ which has strong antibacterial and fungicidal properties that helps kill Salmonella bacteria hence its use in food from hot climates

Herbal Umbels in Medicine

  •  Traditionally many umbelifereous plants have been used in herbal medicine.
  • One recurring use of plants from this group of plant is in treating digestive and stomach problems. Parsley, Dill, Fennel,  and Lovage are well known in this respect
  • Angelica, Wild Celery, Caraway, Coriander, Anise, Cow Parsnip and other plants are used for treatments and  a range of medicinal claims, toothpaste, tisanes and poultices.

Sea Holly                             Hedge Parsley  (Torilis japonica)

Ornamental Umbels and Uses

  • The ferny foliage of umbelliferous plants looks attractive when combined in borders with more robust foliage even before the flowerheads are taken into account.
  • See through backdrops and feathery borders can be included in your own bespoke garden design.
  • I grow Angelica in my border and it is a robust plant that survives our northern climate.
  • Many gardeners already grow Astrantia and Burpleurum a couple of other umbels without thinking of them as part of the carrot group.
  • You could grow a whole bed of Eryngium species including, yuccifolium, alpinum, higanteum and variifolium
  • Pennyworts or Hydrocotyle are useful in water gardens and the harder to find Oxypolis is used in wet land.

Wild Carrot                          Pig Nut (Conopodium majus)


Gaillardia Bring Sunshine like Flowers to Borders


Gaillardia is a genus of flowering plants in the sunflower family part of Compositae or Asteraceae like the daisy. Gaillardia are native to North and South America. I hope they grow well in Yorkshire as I have just created a new bed from birthday presents brought up from sunnier and warmer Oxford.

As a perennial  Gaillardia have a long flowering season are commonly called blanket flower, or if confused with Rudbeckia they can be called cone flower. The daisy-like flowers are produced from early summer to early autumn in shades of orange, red and yellow, add sizzle to the garden and attracting nectar-seeking insects.

Gaillardia Specifics from Gardeners Tips

  • Gaillardia do not require deadheading  but the plants will look better and be fuller if you do cut the stems back when the flowers start to fade.
  •  Gaillardia is easy to grow but can be a short-lived perennial so divide plants every 2-3 years and encourage reseeding.
  • Grow best in full sun.
  • Gaillarida forms a slowly spreading mound.
  • Gaillarida has lance-shaped gray-green leaves.
  • Flowers are 3 – 5 inches across in various shades of yellow and red. Most have petals surrounding a center disk which produces florets. Plants grow 18 inches high by up to  24 inches wide
  •  Gaillardia x grandiflora  Common Name: Blanket Flower
  • Part of the 1,620 Asteracea genera and 23,600 species of herbaceous plants. The  12 species of Gaillardia hybridise so we see a range of colours and forms.

Sowing Gaillardia Seed Tips

  • Sow fresh seed six to eight weeks before the last  frost  in your area.
  • Use a moist but not soggy mix including some vermiculite
  • Sow three seeds in the center of the pot. Do not cover the seeds.
  • Mist over the top of the seeds.
  • Try provide a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and eight hours of light per day.
  • To  avoid washing the seeds from the pot’s center or burying them under the soil apply water slowly when the soil becomes dry.
  • After germination remove the weakest seedlings and avoid disturbing the roots of the strongest seedling.
  • Fertilize the seedling every fortnight with a 10-10-10 nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium water-soluble fertilizer.

Suggested Gaillardia Flower Varieties

Gaillardia × grandiflora
  • Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’: popular  3-4″ flowers have a red center surrounded by yellow. And Arizona Apricot.
  • Gaillardia ‘Burgundy’: Wine-red petals with a yellow center disk that ages to burgundy.
  • Gaillardia ‘Summerina Orange’: Zingy orange shades from soft red through yellow radiating from a rosy center disk.And Sunseekers Orange.
  • Gaillardia ‘Goblin’: Large green leaves are veined in maroon. Very hardy.
  • Gaillardia ‘Smileys Giggling’ YellowStriking yellow flowers grow true from seed.

Gaillardia with slippers. It goes to show that a cool blue will tone well in the garden with the bright Gaillardia colours.


What a Day for Hemerocallis – the Daylily

Hemerocallis better known as ‘Day Lilies’ have given a wonderful show this year!

If you want extravagant colour Hemerocallis is a plant to  consider for  your garden. They are normally happy in sunny dry conditions.

Several varieties are shown here but many more can be seen on Google.

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It is worth deadheading Daylilies to prolong blooming especially if they are grown in an individual pot. This also has the benefit of improving the appearance your Hemerocallis


Rose Year 2018

In the UK it has been a fantastic year for flowers, no more so than an English favourite the Rose.

Parks and gardens have been over flowing with stunning blooms and scents.

2018 may be the start of a rose resurgence and I will be tempted to buy a few more bare rooted rose trees this backend.

Have I just been fortunate or has the weather restricted pests and diseases? No rust, negligible blackspot and only one plant suffering from mildew.

It may be too soon to say farewell to greenfly but I live in hope for the second flush from the HT roses.

After generally a good year for fruit and berries I wonder what to expect from rose hips this autumn. My Rambling Rector put on a good show and now I hope for a surfiet of hips. Rugosa roses needed more moisture and were one of the few poor performance in 2018.


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